Access to Higher Education : Theoretical perspectives and contemporary challenges book cover
1st Edition

Access to Higher Education
Theoretical perspectives and contemporary challenges

ISBN 9781138924116
Published November 16, 2016 by Routledge
268 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

How do we understand and explain who has access to higher education? How do we make sense of persisting and new forms of inequality? How can global, national and institutional policymakers and practitioners make higher education more inclusive? Access to Higher Education: Theoretical perspectives and contemporary challenges seeks to update thinking on these questions, combining new voices and emerging perspectives with established writers in the field.

This pioneering text highlights the contribution of social theory to issues of access to education, with chapters introducing and drawing on the works of key interdisciplinary thinkers including Pierre Bourdieu, Margaret Archer, Amartya Sen and Herbert Simon. It then moves to examines how theoretical perspectives can be applied to the contemporary challenges of forging more equal access, with examples drawn from a wide range of contexts, including the UK, the US, Australia, South Africa and Japan.

Global in scope, this book documents the shared nature of the access challenge in a period when higher education is growing rapidly, but inequalities continue to be stark. It concludes by proposing a new direction for research and a reassertion of the role of the researcher as a social activist for disconnected and disadvantaged groups, equipped with the thinking tools needed to move the agenda forward.

Access to Higher Education is a rigorous text for the global research community, with relevance to policymakers, practitioners and postgraduate students interested in social justice and social policy. It provides those with an academic interest in access and a commitment to enhancing policy with theoretical and practical ideas for moving the access agenda forward in their institutional, regional or national contexts.

Table of Contents

Section 1: Access to higher education

Chapter 1 – Global trends of access to and equity in postsecondary education

Chiao-Ling Chien, Patrick Montjouridès and Hendrik van der Pol

Chapter 2 – The stratification of opportunity in high participation systems (HPS) of higher education

Simon Marginson 

Section 2: Theoretical perspectives

Chapter 3 – Capitals and habitus: a Bourdieusian framework for understanding transitions into higher education and student experiences

Ciaran Burke 

Chapter 4 – Explaining inequality? Rational action theories of educational decision making

Ron Thompson 

Chapter 5 – Student choices under uncertainty: bounded rationality and behavioural economics

Neil Harrison

Chapter 6 – Higher education: too risky a decision?

Malcolm Brynin

Chapter 7 - Widening access with success: using the capabilities approach to confront injustices

Merridy Wilson-Strydom

Chapter 8 – Reflexivity and agency: critical realist and Archerian analyses of access and participation

Peter Kahn

Section 3: Contemporary challenges 

Chapter 9 – Framing and making of access policies: the case of Palestinian Arabs in higher education in Israel

Ayala Hendin, Dalia Ben-Rabi and Faisal Azaiza 

Chapter 10 – Widening access in a vast country: opportunities and challenges in Australia

Ann Jardine

Chapter 11 – Accessing postgraduate study in the United States for African Americans: relating the roles of family, fictive kin, faculty, and student affairs practitioners

Carmen M. McCallum, Julie R. Posselt and Estefanía López

Chapter 12 – Participation and access in higher education in Russia: continuity and change of a positional advantage

Anna Smolentseva 

Chapter 13 – Can Holistic and Contextualised Admission (HaCA) widen access at highly selective universities? Experiences from England and the United States

Anna Mountford-Zimdars

Chapter 14 – Diversifying admissions through top-down entrance examination reform in Japanese elite universities: what is happening on the ground?

Beverley Anne Yamamoto

Chapter 15 – The mobility imperative: English students and 'fair' access to international higher education

Rachel Brooks and Johanna Waters



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Anna Mountford-Zimdars is a senior lecturer in Higher Education and Head of Research at King's Learning Institute, King’s College London, UK.

Neil Harrison is a senior lecturer in the Department of Education at the University of the West of England, UK.